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Insurance Coverage Disputes – Appellate Court Rules That Fluids Excreted From a Dead Body Are Not Covered By Insurance

We as lawyers are often see the same type of case over and over again.  But every now and again a strange case leaps off the pages of the law books containing some obscure or bizarre facts.

A case decided by Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal is such a case.  In that case, the appellate court was left with the daunting task of deciding an insurance coverage dispute as to whether or not a claimant was entitled to damages caused by the fluids excreted by her neighbor’s dead body.  The appellate court concluded that such a claim was not covered.

The facts of this case are unusual.  A condo owner felt she was entitled to relief as a result of the damages caused by her neighbor’s dead body. The decomposing dead body leaked body fluids that caused damage to the aggrieved condo owner.  The decomposed body leaked bodily fluids, which infiltrated the walls and the apartment causing damage.

That condo owner was then presented with the difficult task of convincing the courts that a dead and decomposing body, which leaks bodily fluids, is considered an explosion under a home insurance policy.

Both the county courts judge and the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the insurance company.

The condo owner tried to claim that the damages caused by the decomposed body constituted an explosion, because an affidavit from a doctor said that the internal contents of the neighbor’s body explosively expanded and leaked. The courts found that this did not fall under the term explosion, although State Farm’s policy does not specifically define the term explosion. The courts decided to define the term explosion as a plain and unambiguous meaning, which could be understood by the ordinary person. They explained that the meaning of explosion “does not include a decomposing body’s cells explosively expanding, causing leakage of bodily fluids.

The insurance company originally offered the condo owner a settlement, which was rejected because the owner felt that it lacked the sufficient amount of money necessary to properly compensate her for her damages. The owner wanted the initial appraisal invalidated and a neutral party to do a second appraisal. Although the owner did suffer losses to her condo, the courts did not see it fit to grant her relief because the decomposing of a body which leaks bodily fluids will not be interpreted as an explosion in the eyes of the courts. Rather, the appellate court reasoned that home insurance policies inclusion of coverage for explosions relates only to the plain meaning of the term explosion.

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